6 Ways To Tame Tantrums (Without Losing Your Cool)

I wish I could write an apology to everyone on flight 274 from New York to Los Angeles last December 15. I was the one with the screaming 2-year-old. The 2-year-old who threw herself into the aisle, blocking the drink cart for 20 minutes. The 2-year-old whose piercing screams threatened to break glass. The 2-year-old who finally got back onto my lap only to wildly kick the seat back in front of us for a good 10 minutes (though it felt like hours).

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Although some people flashed me that control-your-child glare, many more tried to help. The best advice came from my seatmate, a gray-haired mother of four and grandmother of nine: "Keep telling yourself that you'll laugh about this later," she said. And, yes, sometimes laughing is all you can do. But more often, though I didn't know it then, you can resolve a child's outrageous outbursts -- or even prevent them altogether.

Here are six steps that'll stop a tantrum in its tracks:

1. Make eye contact. "Locking eyes helps take kids out of the moment and distracts them so they can calm down," says psychologist Bonnie Maslin, author of Picking Your Battles. Also, get down to your child's level to talk -- it shows you're focused on listening to her.

2. Whisper. "A child who's screaming can't hear a whisper. Coming close to you to hear you will often switch off their tantrum," says Stella Reid, known as Nanny Stella on Fox's Nanny 911. Using a quiet voice also keeps you calm.

3. Press pause. Sit next to her, gently put your hand on her stomach and say, "Breathe." This technique forces your child to break from the tantrum and helps her regroup.
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4. Prevent an accident. If your child is doing something that may hurt her or anyone else, wrap your arms around her and hold her firmly but gently until she relaxes.

5. Make a break for it.
"When kids are truly hysterical, there's little you can do except get them out of the place that triggered the tantrum," says New York child psychologist Tovah P. Klein, Ph.D. Scoop them up and calmly say, "This is just so hard for you right now. We'll come back another day." Then escape to a restroom, your car or a quiet corner to help them mellow out.

6. Ignore it. If you're at home, don't do anything, says New York City pediatrician Michel Cohen, M.D., author of The New Basics: A to Z Baby and Childcare for the Modern Parent. The less of a reaction he gets, the less often he'll throw a tantrum.
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